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Maas touts ‘versatile’ Alouettes offence, expects Fajardo bounce back in 2023

Jason Maas Montreal Alouettes Jason Maas - The Canadian Press

The Montreal Alouettes 2022 could be seen as a success. After firing head coach Khari Jones four games into the season, general manager Danny Maciocia led the team to a 9-9 finish and a win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East semifinal, the club’s first playoff win since 2014.

The Als will have a much different look in 2023. Jason Maas was hired as the new head coach after two seasons as offensive coordinator of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. There will also be a new face at quarterback as former Roughrider Cody Fajardo was brought in to replace Trevor Harris, who signed a two-year deal with Saskatchewan in free agency.

As he looks to build on a promising season, Maas says the team’s new-look offence will look to win battles in the trenches and take advantage of the versatility that Fajardo, a former CFL All-Star and Grey Cup Champion, brings to the table.

“Obviously we’re going to establish the run. We’re built that way with the three backs we have right now, our o-line and the way our quarterback can use his legs, we’re going to be able to run the ball,” Maas said in an interview with TSN 690. “You should see a little bit of everything. We’re going to be versatile. I think we have weapons all over.”

In an attempt to shore up their offensive line to establish the run game led by two time CFL All-Star William Stanback, the team brought in veteran lineman Justin Lawrence. Maas says the two time Grey Cup Champion and 2022 CFL All-Star has been a leader and adds to the existing strength of the Al’s offensive line.

“Justin’s got experience - he recently played in a Grey Cup - he’s come in, done his part and fit in with the group . As a centre you’re looked at as one of the leaders on the offensive line and I think he’s done an extremely good job of that,” Maas said. “We feel like that’s a strength of our football team, our o-line and d-line. And Justin has done a very good job thus far in camp.”

Fajardo enters his first season in Montreal with a chip on his shoulder after being benched late in the season for Mason Fine. The 31-year-old threw a career-high 13 interceptions as the Riders missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Maas says Fajardo has come to camp with extra motivation following his disappointing season and expects the veteran to bounce back as he is now fully recovered from a knee injury that affected his play last season.

“[The chip on his shoulder makes him] pretty damn dangerous, especially with the experience Cody has,” Maas said. “To be quite honest with you he’s as healthy as he’s been since I’ve known him. He battled through an MCL and other things with different lineups every week. And after he fought and clawed to get healthy, we didn’t play him.

“He’s been preparing, since October, for this opportunity. I think a healthy Cody, with the experience he brings, is why he will be successful this year.”

The Alouettes play their first preseason game on Friday against the Ottawa Redblacks and open their regular season on June 10 at home against Ottawa.